How to avoid getting caught by a super-crowded day at Disneyland

October 8, 2018, 7:33 PM · Yeah, it was crazy at Disneyland today.

If you're used to visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, you might be wondering why Disneyland closed its Mickey and Friends parking structure around 2 this afternoon. Or why fans were complaining online about the wait time for the Winnie the Pooh rides exceeding 30 minutes at 5pm. (Winnie the Pooh!) Aren't weekdays in October supposed to be one of the few remaining slow times in the parks?

Well, it was Columbus Day today and while much of the country ignores the holiday, many schools in Orange County did get the day off. And since Disneyland's crowd levels are driven primarily by its hundreds of thousands of local annual passholders — instead of the guests from out of town that drive traffic at Walt Disney World — a day off of school when the SoCal Select annual passholders are not blocked from the park means big, big crowds.

That was the case today. If you are an out-of-town visitor, or just a local looking for an easier weekday to play hooky at Disneyland, how can you avoid getting caught out by a super-crowded day like today?

You need to compare two Web pages: Disneyland's AP blockout calendar and the combined school calendar for Orange County school districts. Days that are marked as "no school" on the school calendar and "good to go" on the Disneyland calendar for SoCal Select are your days to avoid at all costs.

The TL;DR? You should be okay for avoiding days like today for the next few months. But circle these dates next year as ones to avoid if you are looking for the smallest possible crowds at the resort:

Disneyland is splitting its AP blockout calendar by park in 2019, in large part due to the opening of the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land next summer. So if you are planning a visit that includes Disney California Adventure, you might also try to avoid June 3-5 and then Aug. 19-20, as those dates will be open to SoCal Select APs visiting DCA, while some school districts will be out of session for the summer.

Disney is blocking its SoCal Select APs through all of August next year at Disneyland, which should eliminate the super-crowded weeks in the middle of the month between the blockouts lifting and school starting that fans have encountered in years past.

In general, the best days to visit Disneyland remain the ones when the most annual passholders are blocked from visiting. So you're better off coming on Saturdays during vacation periods than other days of the week, and thanks to the blockouts of all APs except the $1,000-plus Signature Plus and Premier levels, Christmas week is now actually somewhat reasonable, instead of the complete human gridlock it had been in the past.

The new Star Wars land, of course, will change everything next summer, as Disneyland continues to adjust its ticketing and pass programs. But for now, a quick look at the AP blockout and local school calendars can save you some headaches on a Disneyland visit.

Replies (5)

October 9, 2018 at 12:01 PM

I may be down on modern tech and apps in some ways. But they are a boon for theme park lovers to get real-time updates on crowd levels, lines, etc. Really could have used those back in the 1990s for so many trips.

It is tricky. I remember my last Orlando trip in early November 2012. The weekend was Disney which was pretty packed, especially as Food and Wine Fest was going on at Epcot so a lot of crowd stuff. Then, for Tuesday and Wednesday, went to Universal and astonishing low crowds. I actually walked onto Harry Potter, that's how light it was. Again, it can be tricky but it's good to have more options in judging crowds today.

October 9, 2018 at 5:13 PM

We unfortunately visited Disneyland on Columbus Day four years ago and it was horrendous (they had a big charity convention on as well as it being a holiday) out of all the days for us to choose. Won’t make that mistake again

October 9, 2018 at 11:41 PM

I'm here at the Mickey's Halloween event and I'm stunned at how totally unprepared the place is. And that's with a limited audience. They have two big events, the fireworks and the parade and there's no planning for the crowd and they force everyone out between them causing maximum churn and chaos. I've had seven rides fail on me over the last for days causing long delays. I've been photographed, scanned, tagged, searched (really when did going to am amusement parks become worse that getting into an airplane?) I've pretty much had it with Disney and Disneyland in general. 1950s nostalgia gone mad combined with some of the worst customer service (not to mention value) I've ever experienced.

October 10, 2018 at 9:58 AM

Yep, made this mistake this past Monday. Not gonna lie, it has me a little bit soured on the happiest place on earth. I’m sure it will only last a little while, but that was the worst crowd I have ever seen. Makes me wonder why even locals would want to go that day, even with no blackout.

October 15, 2018 at 1:24 PM

I call bs on this - as a l o n g time area resident and pass holder, there’s only a few days of the year when the majority of the crowds are “locals”. The expanded Disneyland Resort and subsequent marketing have created year round visitors from all over the world. There used to be quiet days in September or January - not any more! The Disney money making machine added events to prevent this. Don’t blame the pass holders for gridlock!

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